Spilling Over: Painting Color in the 1960s
Mar 29–Aug 2019

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This exhibition gathers paintings from the 1960s and early 1970s that inventively use bold, saturated, and even hallucinatory color to activate perception. During this period, many artists adopted acrylic paint—a newly available, plastic-based medium—and explored its expansive technical possibilities and wider range of hues. Color Field painters poured paint and stained unprimed canvas, dramatizing painting’s materiality and visual force. Painters associated with Op art deployed pattern, geometric arrangement, and intense color combinations to emphasize that vision is a commingling of physical response and unconscious association. At the same historical moment, an emerging generation of artists of color and women explored color’s capacity to articulate new questions about perception, specifically its relation to race, gender, and the coding of space. The exhibition looks to the divergent ways color can be equally a formal problem and a political statement.

Drawn entirely from the Whitney’s collection, Spilling Over includes important recently acquired works by Emma Amos and Kay WalkingStick, as well as paintings that entered the collection soon after they were made, by artists such as Alvin Loving, Ellsworth Kelly, Miriam Schapiro, and Frank Stella, among others. The title comes from a quote by artist Bob Thompson, whose work is also presented. He said, “I paint many paintings that tell me slowly that I have something inside of me that is just bursting, twisting, sticking, spilling over to get out. Out into souls and mouths and eyes that have never seen before.” Spilling Over demonstrates how painting retained an urgency for artists who wanted to see anew.

The exhibition is organized by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection, with Margaret Kross, curatorial assistant.


Support for Spilling Over: Painting Color in the 1960s is provided by the LLWW Foundation and the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation.


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Josef Albers

Homage to the Square: "Wait", 1967
Concentric squares in shades of orange and red.

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Emma Amos

Baby, 1966
Painting of a woman and legs in bright colors.

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Richard Anuszkiewicz

The Fourth of the Three, 1963
An abstract painting with a bright red background and pattern of green and blue squares

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Frank Bowling

Dan Johnson's Surprise, 1969
A painting that depictes the shape of South America three times, under diluted color washes

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Helen Frankenthaler

Orange Mood, 1966
An abstract painting depicting organic shapes in varying shades of orange and yellow on a deep blue background

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Sam Gilliam

Bow Form Construction, 1968
A painted canvas draped on a white wall.

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Marcia Hafif

72., March 1965, 1965
An abstract shape with teal and orange sides.

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Carmen Herrera

Blanco y Verde, 1959
White and green artwork by Carmen Herrera.

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Alex Katz

Edwin, Blue Series, 1965
A man in a white shirt on a blue background.

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Ellsworth Kelly

Blue Green Red, 1964

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Morris Louis

Gamma Delta, 1959-60
Abstract painting with blue and red paint on the left side and green, black, and yellow paint on the run, running towards the bottom center of the canvas.

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Alvin Loving

Septehedron 34, 1970
An orange septehedron-shaped canvas

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Kenneth Noland

New Day, 1967
A painting of multicolored horizontal stripes.

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Robert Reed

Plum Nellie, Sea Stone, 1972
Atop a neutral tan background, there is a swirl of purple paint stroke. On top of the purple stroke, there is a neutral tan rectangle.

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Miriam Schapiro

Jigsaw, 1969
A painting featuring brightly colored shapes.

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Frank Stella

Gran Cairo, 1962
A series of brightly colored, nested squares

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Bob Thompson

Triumph of Bacchus, 1964
Colorful depiction of people and animals by Bob Thompson.

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Kay WalkingStick

April Contemplating May, 1972
An orange figure sitting in a field of green and blue.

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Videos


Tours

Today,
Apr 25

Join for a free, guided tour of this exhibition led by a Whitney docent.

2 pm

View more upcoming tours.


Events


Painting of a woman and legs in bright colors.

Audio Guides

"More often than not, you have to assume that there is some sort of relationship between radical gestures and art, and radical gestures and the world."
—Rashid Johnson

Hear from the artists, the exhibition’s curator, and scholars speaking about works on view.


In the News

“It’s a perfect summer show that you will want to visit again and again. Its abounding freshness clears your eyes and lifts your spirits, so that everything around you, in and out of the museum, looks clear, bright, alive, and new.”
-Hyperallergic